Since September 20, 2019, peaceful protests against rampant corruption have been repressed with an iron fist in Egypt. According to the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, at the time of writing, over 3,300 peaceful protesters have been arrested and 117 others have been forcibly disappeared. There are reports that 200 are scheduled to be released on 8 October. Given the well-documented, systematic use of torture against detainees and extra-judicial killings in Egypt, the detainees are at great risk.
The silence of the European Union and its member states about these arrests marks a new low in the Union’s support of international human rights and democracy. On October 10, Euromed Rights called on the EU to strongly back the Egyptians’ right to peacefully protest, to publicly affirm its support for democratic transition in Egypt. Euromed Rights also urged the Egyptian government to respect its citizens’ right to freedom of assembly and expression, stop its arbitrary detentions and arrests of human rights defenders, and unconditionally release all detained peaceful protesters.
Several human rights defenders are among the detained, including human rights lawyers Mahinour al-Masry, Mohamed al-Baqer, and political activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, who was a leading figure of the 2011 uprising. Al-Baqer and Abdel Fattah are reportedly detained in a high-security prison in solitary confinement.
However, to date, only a handful of Members of the European Parliament have spoken out in support of the protesters and spokespersons of France and Germany have responded to journalists to say that they are following the situation and are expecting that freedom of assembly will be respected. An EU spokesperson sent an email to express the same sentiment to journalists. This is falling short of what can be expected from self-proclaimed defenders of human rights.
For Euromed Rights, "it is far from what one would expect from those who call themselves human rights defenders. The European Union and its Member States must grasp this opportunity to fully and openly express their support for Egyptian civil society and its struggle for democracy and human rights ".